Thursday, September 17, 2009

If We Want Preventive Health Care, Let's Talk About Breastfeeding

The health care reform talk on CNN and FOX and even my town's newspaper buy into "preventive health care." This makes sense: if Americans eat correctly, exercise, and generally behave, they will be less sick, feel better, work better, see the doctor less, and a beautiful cycle of wellness will abound. 

Not quite, but with preventive healthcare, all will save money.

Major news organizations ignore preventive healthcare overall, mainly because it isn't fun and Americans tend to be reactive rather than proactive. Spending money on new health fads has more possible news stories. So let's talk about money.

As the Peoria Journal Star reports, the annual insurance premium for a family paid by employers and workers recently rose from $7,220 to $13,397. That's an increase of nearly 86 percent. Conversely, the median earnings of Illinois workers rose just 17 percent, from $26,806 to $31,414. As an Illinois native, this bothers me. What bothers me more is that the article closes without any reference to preventive health care, which will lower doctor bills. Articles about expensive healthcare must reference that preventive health care is often the cheapest. Preventive healthcare, caring for yourself before you are sick, should start at birth with breastfeeding.

The American Academy of Pediatrics reported a study proving such a point. Thomas M. Ball and Anne L. Wright looked at three illnesses in infants: lower respiratory tract illnesses, otitis media, and gastrointestinal illnesses. Results were expected: 
There were 2033 excess office visits, 212 excess days of hospitalization, and 609 excess prescriptions for these three illnesses per 1000 never-breastfed infants compared with 1000 infants exclusively breastfed for at least 3 months. These additional health care services cost the managed care health system between $331 and $475 per never-breastfed infant during the first year of life.

Researchers concluded with the following: 

In addition to having more illnesses, formula-fed infants cost the health care system money. Health care plans will likely realize substantial savings, as well as providing improved care,by supporting and promoting exclusive breastfeeding. 

Undoubtedly, breastfeeding must be part of our nation's healthcare reform discussion. It is key in preventive health care. 

The World Health Organization (WHO) emphasized my point: 

Small steps are as important as system overhaul. Those who initiate change, large or small, are experiencing benefits today and creating the foundation for success in the future. 

Media, mothers, and concerned citizens: let's all openly discuss breastfeeding, how it can lower our health care costs, and most importantly, help babies. 

Unless common citizens promote breastfeeding and openly demand the abolition of the atrocity that is formula, babies will suffer. Excuses and self-comforting hinder the breastfeeding movement, as does cruelty and hatred.